House Bill Would Block Federal Rule on Workers’ Chemical Exposure

August 4, 2008

A House committee chairman is trying to stop the Bush administration from implementing a late-term rule that could make it harder to limit worker exposure to dangerous chemicals in the workplace.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, said he has introduced legislation that would block the Labor Department from finalizing the draft rule, which came to light last week.

Among other things, according to early drafts, the rule would create additional public notice and review by Labor Department political appointees before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration could do risk assessments that lead to limits on exposure to chemicals or toxins in the workplace.

The current assumption that workers serve for 45 years, and thus would be exposed to compounds such as asbestos or lead for 45 years, would also being revisited under the proposal the department is pushing forward in the waning months of President Bush’s second term.

“Congress will not stand for any backdoor effort by the political appointees to further cripple our nation’s ability to respond to vital health and safety concerns,” said Miller.

A Labor Department has disputed descriptions of the rule but has declined to discuss its contents since it is not yet final.

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